THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS BELIEVED NOT FOR JOY
(A biblical refection on THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER [YEAR B] – 15 April 2018)
Gospel Reading: Luke 24:35-48
First Reading: Acts 3:13-15,17-19; Psalms: Psalm 4:2,4,7,9; Second Reading: 1 John 2:1-5
The Scripture Text
Then they told what had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
As they were saying this, Jesus Himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why to questionings rise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; handle Me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when He had said this He showed them His hands and His feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate before them.
Then He said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:35-48 RSV)
When Jesus appeared before the disciples after His resurrection, they were terrified; they thought that they had seen a ghost. The death of Jesus of the cross had been too painful and devastating for them. Their investment of time and their destiny in Jesus came crumbling down of Good Friday when Jesus, their Master had been caught and crucified on the cross. They wept more for themselves than for Jesus. A drama in their lives had come to an end. It is when they had reconciled themselves to this tragic fate that a new vision, a new life appeared in the resurrected Jesus. When He appeared before them, they were afraid and dumbfounded. When they recognized Him, their fright gave way to joy, and paradoxically, their joy swallowed up their belief. Now, they believed not for joy.
The works of the Lord are, sometimes, too marvelous for us to believe. The fact that God loves us so much and that He sent His Son to die upon the cross for the forgiveness of our sins is too marvelous for us to believe. How could, God, who is Almighty and Holy, take the human form and die for us on the cross as a malefactor? The holy God died for poor wretched sinners, like me? This is too much to be believed. But it is true that Jesus loves us – poor sinners, and He died and rose from the dead for us. Anyone who believes in Him, and accepts Him as her or his Savior, even though she or he dies, yet shall she or he live (see John 11:25).
The disciples could not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. He challenged them to touch Him, to look at His hands and feet, and asked them to give Him something to eat, which He consumed in front of them. He showed them several evidences to prove that He had indeed risen from the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is real; it is not a fancy; it is not a story concocted by the disciples. The disciples saw Jesus risen from the dead, and later, they authenticated it with their own blood. No man dies for what he knows to be wrong. Jesus is, indeed, risen from the dead. Saint Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain” (1Corinthians 15:14).
When the disciples believed not for joy, Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45). When we have doubts about the fact that God loves us, all we need to go to the Bible to know more about Jesus. Saint Jerome said, “Ignorance of the Scripture is the ignorance of Christ”. We must make it our constant endeavor to read the Bible more frequently.
Jesus explained the incredulous disciples about the necessity of His sufferings predicted in the Scriptures. Jesus is the Missing Link in the Old Testament. He explains and makes sense of it. Put Jesus into the Old Testament, all the puzzles get solved, and the mysteries open up. Without Him, the Old Testament is bereft of fulfilment.
As Christians, we believe that the Bible, comprising of the Old and the New Testament, is God’s revelation. We love the Old Testament because in it God shows how He was working all through history to bring His Son into the world to be the Savior, and we love the New Testament because through it God reveals the salvation which He wrought through Jesus Christ. We must read our Bible more often to see the wonders, which God had done for us in the past, and to believe in the wonders which He is going to work for us in the future.
Let us be happy and joyful that Christ, by His death and resurrection, had worked out our salvation. When the disciples talked to one another, Jesus appeared in their midst, and began to talk to them. We, often, gather together and talk one against the other, and therefore, Jesus never appears in our midst. Let us cease talking against one another, and begin, like the disciples, to talk of all the things that happened in Jerusalem, and surely, Jesus who made His divine presence among them, will also make His divine presence among us.
Prayer: May the love of the Lord Jesus draw us to Himself; may the power of the Lord Jesus strengthen us in His service; may the joy of the Lord Jesus fill our souls; may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen. (William Temple)
Source: John Rose, JOHN’S ILLUSTRATED SUNDAY HOMILIES – CYCLE B, Bangalore, India: Asian Trading Corporation, sixth printing 2011, pages 73-76.
Jakarta, 13 April 2018
A Christian Pilgrim